A Big Day with big, renewing results

prothonotary warbler, warblers
Male Prothonotary Warbler at Magee Marsh. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Even in my semi-retirement, I’m a busy person. Keeping active and involved in the community has been a priority and passion my entire life.

That lifestyle takes a personal toll, however. From time to time, I need to recharge my body, mind, and spirit. I step away from my daily routine and spend some time just enjoying life.

I have found that immersing myself into nature is the salve that soothes the soul. I love the outdoors and all the beauty that she offers.

A Big Day does that for me. In the birding world, a Big Day is an entire day devoted to nothing more than counting all the species of birds that you can identify by sight or sound.

Folks do Big Days in groups that cover a given territory. Or they are done by simply staying put in one spot and counting all creatures avian seen or heard. That is appropriately called a Big Sit.

My Big Day, however, wasn’t either one of those. Instead, with the warbler migration in full swing, I knew the various locations I wanted to visit in northwest Ohio to view the returning and transient birds.

Traveling alone to different birding hot spots allowed me to go at my own pace, and to absorb fully all that I experienced.

Spring birding near Lake Erie means dressing for all seasons. I was glad I had.

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The steady, stiff northeast wind off of the lake brought out the winter duds in most birders on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, my first destination. Being bundled up didn’t deter either the active bird observations or the usual universal geniality of most birders.

The boardwalk was packed with birders young, old and in between from around the world. Warblers and other birds flitted everywhere.

Even though I had gone by myself, I clearly wasn’t alone. Among the hundreds of birders at Magee, I only knew one, my friend and expert birder, Greg Miller, of ‘The Big Year” fame. The rest weren’t strangers though, helping me to locate and identify 23 warbler species. Their kindness meant more than the day’s species numbers.

Later, when I drove the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge road and then hurried to see some other rare birds, I found the same excited congeniality. Sullen grumpiness isn’t part of birding ethics. Beautiful birds and friendly birders cohabited.

(Click on the photos to enlarge them)

With the day quickly waning, I headed east to the Marblehead Peninsula. I wanted to enhance my day with a brief visit to the Lakeside Daisy Nature Preserve to view the flowers in their prime. Though the day was mostly cloudy and cool, the little buttery daisies warmed my soul with their lusciousness.

After a quick supper, I hustled to my favorite spot in Ohio, Marblehead Lighthouse. The setting sun cast long shadows of trees onto the historic white lighthouse. Its red top, where the beacon blinked for sailors, was bathed in creamy, warm light.

A handful of other photographers celebrated with me. I can’t speak for them. But with each click of the camera’s shutter, my soul felt lighter, cleansed, fulfilled.

I hurried to nearby Lakeside to watch the sunset’s golden evolution. The day was complete.

Such are the positive consequences of observing, listening, contemplating, reflecting and sharing with humankind amid the earthly creation for which we all are charged to preserve. My Big Day finished bigger than I could have ever imagined.

Joy abounded all around in regeneration. Isn’t that the real reason for spring?

Lakeside sunset, sunset
Lakeside sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Author: Bruce Stambaugh

Writer, marketer, columnist, author, photographer, birder, walker, hiker, husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, township trustee, converted Anabaptist, community activist, my life is crammed with all things people and nature and wonder. My late father gave me this penchant for giving and getting the most out of life, my late mother the courtesy, kindness, and creativity to see the joy in life. They both taught me to cherish the people I am with. I try and fail and try again.

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